John Law is a sociologist currently on the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Open University and key proponent of Actor-network theory. He is most commonly associated with the work of STS, or Science, Technology and Society studies. His work is interested in social science method and technology, particularly through the ANT lens.
Aircraft Stories: Decentering the Object in Technoscience Edit
In Law's introduction to Aircraft Stories, he offers his book as a means to "think past the limits that [modernism and postmodernism] set to our ways of thinking" (1). If modernism left us with grand narratives of conherancy and unity, then post-structuralism, modernism's mirror reflection, only offers fractured pluralities that are themselves unsatifactory shards (for postmodernism's main strategy has been to "break the smoothness and shatter the mirror" p. 2 ). The confrontation between modernism and its post results in a rather diluted set of intellectual options--centered or dismantled coherence.
Law proffers a different method: fractional coherence, or "drawing things together without centering them" (2). The fractal, in math, is a line that occupies more than one dimension but less that two, or as Law methaporizes it, "more than one but less than many". For Law, this is rhizomatic thinking, and clearly all this talk of assemblages and rhizomes is deeply indebted to D&G. (we might think of various technologies of vision that skew or distort the centrality of our gaze and possible material methods for thinking through Law's questions).
If subjects are not coherent, Law concludes, neither are objects, and they can instead be considered multiples. Objects, then, have multiple versions with no center, but rather layers that are rendered into singularities through efforts of coherance on our part (understanding how this occurs is one of Law's tasks). This is not easy to image, for the Euro-Western mindframe has "not yet recognized and allowed the difficult subjectivites that are needed for fractional knowing" (4). This is reflected in the book itself, which offers 7 options of "what this book is about" and his highly self-reflexive in its style, tasking writers (particularly in the social sciences) with the demanding task of understanding how their writing relates to a world and executes a performance of its object of interest. Writing, then, can be like Latour's lab, which whisks objects into hypothesized environments to perform work on them. Here, Law is greatly indebted to Mol's work The Body Multiple (and conjures Donna Haraway's essay on Partial Perspective). Multiple storytelling, then, is the only way to tell the story of an object, couple with an awareness that the stories themselves also constitute the object in question. As "our writings perform reality, then they also alter it [...] We always act politically" (7).
The TSR2 Brouchure: Chapters 2 and 7Edit
In chapters two and seven, Law produces a close reading of the TSR2 brochure than emphasizes its multiple character through shifts in illustrative perspective and textual semantics. In a deconstructive way, the TSR2 is always given away as a multiple object, and yet reconstituted as whole by the very arrangement of type and image. In Chatper 7, Law explores the distance between the technical and the aesthetic. Because the technical aspects of the TSR2 are taken as more significant than the aesthetic, the aesthetic "entertains contrasts that are impossible within the technical or the pragmatic [such as Law's gender reading], constrasts that are discursively inconsistant or outrageous but that often enough work with those of the technical produce singularity. The multiplicities become, then, the necessary condition for the singularity.